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Castles of Burgundy: How my thoughts on strategy have developed over time

Carl Garber
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Hi All! So awhile back I posted my thoughts on strategy in the Castles of Burgundy forums. However,at the time of my post I was writing as one who didn't really understand the game that well as I would consistently lose. After that initial post I have added five updates which were session reports with a focus on what I learned as I continued to play. However, I am aware that many people likely will not see my updates as the thread is now quite old.

I have decided to simply repost that thread here for people who might be interested to see one man's exploration towards playing Castles of Burgundy better. I would love to hear your thoughts and rebuttals in the comments section! Also, I will be updating this blog post with at least one more update so feel free to subscribe if you want to read my thoughts after my next play(s).

And with that introduction, here is the original post along with the updates. Enjoy!

Original Post:

Hi all! I have played CoB 9 times now and have only won twice. 1 of those wins was against a beginner in a two player game and the other was against my wife who was 8 months pregnant and had baby brain. My wife routinely kills me at this game and I just couldn't get my head around it.

Some background:

I normally win with those that I game with. I normally see the optimal strategies faster, I adapt once others learn these strategies, and I generally see things during game play that gives me the edge to pull out victory. That is not the case with this game.

Most games I discover strategy as I play, however this time I decided to sit and think about it. I decided this for a couple reasons.

1) I got tired of losing
2) I like to write reviews after 10 plays but I do not understand the game well enough at this point to write a meaningful review.

My last game of CoB I came in with this simple strategy:

1) All players will pretty much get the same amount of points for completing regions therefore I must win the pasture battle as well as the knowledge tiles that give you extra points alongside shipping. If I can do better than my opponents in those areas I should win the game.

I managed to pretty much draw even in the shipping department and won in both the pastures and knowledge tile departments.....yet still lost. It was closer, but yet I still lost. The winner won many tile type bonuses, and yet after doing the math, even without those he still would have beat me by a couple points.

So after further analysis this is the strategy I will use going forward:

1) at the beginning of each round come up with a 10 dice plan that will net me the most points. Generally speaking the focus will be on completing the smallest regions for the first 3+ rounds and then shifting to regions 6 or larger in rounds 4 or 5(if there are any). Some exceptions to this general rule are 4 or 3 animal pasture tiles and point getting knowledge tiles.

2)win or at least tie in these 3 areas: shipping, knowledge tiles, pastures.

3) at the end of round 3 evaluate which tile type bonuses I can compete in and which tile type areas I need to abandon.(if I am set up for mines or castles these will likely already be accomplished by here.

4)early game priorities:

a) 4 animal tiles(especially if only one one the board)
b) the shipping knowledge point tiles
c)completeing regions
d) building knowledge point tiles

This is my plan laid out simply. Of course there will be many tactical decisions that will have to be made but this will be my main approach. I will report back here with the results of my future CoB games in which I use this strategy.

Early Thoughts on Pastures

Hey I am all for efficency and using the buildings to get other tiles (If I can use a building to get an animal tile I am all for it). But there is just too many points to be had in the pastures to avoid animals. especially since, if you avoid them your competitor will have an easier time taking advantage. Lets say on the base board a player fills it all up with sheep. If they get the sheep in say this order: 4,3,2,3,3 that would be worth 20 + 12 + 6 + 6 + 3= 47. add to that the 15 points a 5 tile region is worth and then maybe a 2 point completion bonus(last rd) and you are looking at a total of 64 points for 5 tiles. or roughly 13 points per tile. That's better than completeing 5 one tile regions in round 1 even. So yes, pastures are definately something to consider

First Update

Alrighty...So this is round 2 of this post. I made the mistake of typing a lengthy post and pressing send without saving it somewhere. Unfortunately I accidently pressed the wifi button on my laptop so I lost the post. This one will be a lot less long winded

So I finally got to play this game today and try out my new approach!

It was a three player game between myself, my wife, and my sister.

I won with a score of 230, my wife was second with 224. My sister was quite a bit behind us. So it was nice to see my new appraoch bring me victory!

I used board 2 and started in the bottom left. My wife used board 4 and started on the bottom left, my sister used board 1 and started in the middle.

Going first greatly benefitted me as I was able to pull of a church/mine combo in the first two turns. Also, since I had good access to ship spots I went first most of the game. I got a great knowledge tile early that really helped me this game. I got the one that let you adjust dice for taking any tile from the board. Between that tile and another that gave me workers for mines I only had to use the worker option with my dice twice(possibly 3 times).

I wasn't able to complete any regions in the first phase, but I was able to set myself up nicely with that knowledge tile, a mine, a ship, and another church(to do the church/mine combo again in phase 2).

In the 2nd phase I was able to close 4 or 5 regions as well as grab both the 3 points per shipped good tile and the tile that gives you a worker per mine. I also think I worked my way up to the large pasture and bought a 4 pasture sheep tile.

For the rest of the game I worked alongside the right side of the board trying to complete these small regions as quickly as possible. No sheep came up until the last round which limited my growth in that area. I did, however manage to grab two 4 pigs in round 4 which I played in the small pasture, and bought the other 4 sheep in the last round.

At the end of round 4 I had 4 buildings on the 8 building region with two in my storage. I decided to wait to phase 5 to see if it was even possible to complete the region. I had the knowledge tile that lets you buy from all spots by then so I knew I had a good opportunity to get them if they appeared(I also had all my ships done by then so was first). Unfortunately they didn't turn up so I scurried for the points I could get in other ways.

Here is the breakdown in scoring for the main areas between my wife and I.


wife: 32 points
me: 24(2x4 pigs, and 2x4 sheep)

knowledge tiles:

wife: 36 points(9 x 4 buildings -she had 4 building knowledge tiles)
me: 30 points(18 for different goods, and 12 for shipped goods)

completion bonuses:

wife: 15 points
me: 24 points

As you can see it was a tight game! It was my early completions of many small regions and a few extra shipped goods that were the difference. Also, the fact that I only had to use dice to get workers 2 or 3 times was key as well. (Also that knowledge tile that let me adjust +/-1 in selecting tiles from the board, coupled with me being first most of the game was huge as well).

While I was unfortunate that not more sheep came up and that I wasn't able to complete the 8 region(my biggest completed region at the end of the game was only 2!). I was fortunate to grab four 4 animal pastures as well as both of those shipping knowledge tiles as well as those good worker saving knowledge tiles. I feel that it all balanced out and that in the end 230 is probably a decent score overall. I am curious how high a score I could've gotten if everything broke right.

So far my strategy has proven good for me, although I was delighted by how many tactical decisions I still had to make even with this approach. The interplay of what gets taken every round forces you to always adjust on the fly. I feel like my better understanding of the game helped me enjoy my play better.

I will post again here after my next play to see how my approach does next time!

Happy Gaming

Second Update

Played another game of CoB to try out my new approach. This time a 2p with my wife. The Final Score was:

Kelsey: 199

Farms: 23
End Games Bonus Tiles: 28
Completion Tiles: 10

Carl: 183

Farms: 25
End Game Bonus Tiles: 22
Completion Bonus Tiles: 10


Kelsey used board 1 while I tried board 5. Besides what is mentioned above, Kelsey also shipped 13 goods and completed both 5 tile regions. I shipped 9 goods and my biggest region was a 3. We both had the same amount of tiles in our kingdoms.

I can pinpoint the errors I made and they have all helped to mold my strategy going forward. I will number my mistakes below:

1) I chose to start on the bottom left of the board when I should have started bottom right. Why do I say this? turn order is very important in this game, but especially in 2p where options are so limited.

2)I didn't grab the bonus 4 points for the Watchtower tile when it was available. If you notice above, I have it lower down on my priority list. I think this is because I have played more games 3p than 2p and in 3p quite a bit of the tiles come out and so you can usually wait a bit for these tiles and focus elsewhere. However in 2p CoB there are quite a few tiles that don't come in to play and so you need to grab these tiles when you can. In our game only 2 of these bonus tiles came up and one only in the last round.

3) I didn't play tighly enough to my strategy. What I mean is that I kind of went with the flow of the game instead of re-analysing the gamestate at the start of each round. This led to some shortsighted moves. In many games I play I can intuitively know what I should do, however not in CoB, I need to have a more intentional "mathy" approach in the future.

Aside from these there were a couple things that simply didn't go my way. Only two Cow tiles showed up the whole game so I couldn't complete my cow bonuses in the one field. Also, as mentioned before there was a lack of those bonus tiles in this game as well.

My main take aways from this game are that turn order is important and I need to set myself up ship wise, And also in 2p game bonus tiles are at a premium and I should grab them when I can.

Lastly, I think CoB for me will eventually come down to a set approach per playing board. For example, from now on I will start bottom right for board 5. That said I still think there should be plenty of tactical decisions to make even with pre set approaches per game board(but we will see with more plays).

After 11 plays my impression is that CoB is a solid game(currently I rate it 8.4) but no where near the brilliance of Feld's Macao.

Happy Gaming!

Third Update

Played another game of CoB this time a 4 player game with 1 newbie, 1 person who had played once before, and my wife.

This was a weird game that I can't beleive I lost. I actually went over the scores at the end to figure out what happened...and then stayed awake until like 2 in the morning mulling it over....yeah there IS a down side to OCD apparently

Anyways here is the breakdown between my wife and I(we finished 1-2 as expected).

Kelsey 244 points

farms 33
knowledge tiles 46
shipping 44
towers 4
completion 18
subtotal: 145

Carl 242 points

farms 52
knowledge tiles 35
shipping 24
towers 20
completion 18
subtotal: 149

As you can see I barely edged out my wife in the subtotal and she beat me because she did a better job of chaining and completed one more section than I did. I ended up getting three mines by the 2nd phase and she avoid mines altogether. However, she got the tile that gives to silverlings when delivering goods and so she ended up producing the same amount(ish) of silverlings as I did as well.

The numbers that really jump out at me are her 46 knowledge tile points and the 44 shipping points. obviously I needed to do a better job at blocking, as well as I needed to compete better in the shipping category. I am realizing how powerful shipping is in a 4p game where each good is worth 4 points. I find it interesting how tile values differ depending on player count. for example I managed to get 5 towers in this game(due to the knowledge tile that lets you put same buildings in the same city) along with the knowledge tile for it which is normally quite powerful in a 2p game especially. However, she had 4 shipping houses and the knowledge tile for that. As I was thinking about it she was essentially getting 4 points like I was for each of those tiles as well as an additional 1/2 action because of the coin...adding to this her knowledge tile that gave her an additional silverling ofr shipping and she was set! Also, even though I acknowledged the importance of turn order in my last post, I played in last place for much of the game. Meanwhile she was often first and it fit nicely in with the rest of her shipping strategy.

After breaking things down it was interesting to see how well I was able to do with being lower in turn order. I think having two newbies had to do a lot with both my wife's success and my own....I feel I played well, but so did she, and she ultimately edged me out....I felt her strategy was better though as she had a bit more potential at the end of the game than I did.

So takeaways from this session:

1) shipping houses are fairly powerful especially in 4p game swhere shpping in general is a priority action.
2) When possible I need to chain actions when going after non-action giving tile(ie. if I want a farm tile, instead of just grabbing it, try to get the building that allows me to grab a farm tile...this will give me an action and net the same result). My wife routinely does better at chaining than we and I am shocked it took me this long to understand that it gains an action...If there is competion for a tile I will still grab it, but if there is not I will try to chain for these tiles.
3) Mines early are great to pick up despite my wifes dislike of them and her win %
4) In a 4p game where all the animals will come out and there are 4 animal types it is less important to focus on farms as you will have good opportunityies there as others will likely try to focus on a different animal type...It is reasonably easy to get a good animal score with only half focus on pastures(ie. try to chain a couple 4and 3 of the same together but maybe not go for a whole field of the same animal).
5) keeping up in shipping is essential in a 4p game.
6) Some mathy stuff I have decided upon:
a) I am going to aim for 250 points each game
b) 150 points from pastures/shipping/towers/knowledge/completion
c) 100 points from finishing off areas
d) I am going to think of each action as worth 4 points(or rather needing to produce at least 4 points)50 dice x4 plus 12.5 actions through chanining or buying = 250 points. I am simply going to use this to try and evaluate the relative value of the various tiles for different play counts.

Thanks for reading and happy gaming!

Fourth Update

I played another game of CoB yesterday. This timea 2p game with my wife.

I used board 5 and she used board 4.

Here is the breakdown of our scores:

Carl 220 points

farms 20
knowledge tiles 52
shipping 26(13 goods)
towers 0
completion 10(two large bonuses)
subtotal: 108

Kelsey 172 points

farms 41
knowledge tiles 14
shipping 18?(9 goods?)
towers 4
completion 5(one large bonus)
subtotal: 82

As you can see it wasn't even close. I think I completed 13 sections this game, while Kelsey only completed 9. I think 52 points through knowledge tiles is a new high for me. I got 15 points for the shipping knowledge tile, 13 for the tile that gives you a point per shipped tile, I got 16 points for the tile that gives you 4 points per animal type, and 8 points for having two banks. Besides these I also had the knowledge tile that lets you take goods from two adjacent depots as well as the tile that gives you two silverlings per goods shipment. As you can see I had very good synergy going with those knowledge tiles as they all fed into a shipping focussed strategy.

There were a couple interesting aspects to this game.

1) I made a small error in putting a black backed 3 chicken tile on a far space. This happened because the black tiles and the animal tiles were side by side and my wife accidentally flipped the chicken tile over. Being that we needed one more animal(and being that I thought it was an animal tile she flipped over) we grabbed that one. However, this happened for the last round and my wife had already collected 3 chicken tiles previously. That chicken tile gave me a total of 10 extra points(not counting what would have happened if I selected a different tile instead). I am glad the win margin was so large so that there was no controversy attached to the win.

2) This was by far my wife's worst game ever. And I didn't help matters by aggressively denying her the tiles she needed to finish her 2nd 5 building region. I discovered after the game that my wife doesn't mind agressive plays like that in 3 or 4 player games, but hates it when just the two of us play. I promised her that I would not intentionally try to deny her a tile in the future(the tile had no value to me, it was purely a spite play on my part). I found out this was the main reason she doesn't like playing this game 2p with me. Hopefully, now that we have talked about it, CoB will get played a bit more just the two of us.

3) If you look two updates back you will see I had used board 5 back then as well. In that summary I decided one of my big mistakes was my initial castle placement. I was curious to see how things would go differently this game as I started in the bottom right which I determined last time was the best starting spot. I found this greatly affected the game as it allowed me to maintain first player for most of the game, it also allowed me to build an early mine in the first round(I didn't build any more after that), as well gave me close access to regions of all tile types as well as let me complete many small regions early. It was good to see an improved result playing board 5 as I thought it should be played.

4) I have no new takeaways from this play. I placed an emphasis on turn order and shipping and won the scoring areas battle as well as the quick area completion battle. I made a point of trying to remember to chain actions more, but that focus only changed my play once in the whole game. But I suppose every little bit counts. I also focussed on the shipping tile and got two of them which helped quite a bit.

Happy Gaming!

Fifth Update

Played another 2p game with my wife. I used board 4 and Kelsey used board 6.

Here is the breakdown of our scores:

Carl 198 points

farms 9
knowledge tiles 40
shipping 24(12 goods)
towers 0
completion 15(three large)
subtotal: 88

Kelsey 172 points

farms 20
knowledge tiles 30
shipping 10(5 goods)
towers 12
completion 12(two large, one small)
subtotal: 84

This was a weird game in that the farms didn't really work for either of us. Fortunately it was a tacked on area for me whereas Kelsey was focussing on it but was ultimately frustrated in it. She was hoping to chain both sheep and cows, however at the end of the game she ended up with 3 sheep tiles in the 4 tile pasture, and 1 cow tile in the two tile pasture thus scoring no points for completing those regions. I completed only one 3 tile pasture region and picked up a trio of 3 animal tiles(of different animals) as I also had the animals knowledge tile.

You can see that our subtotals are fairly close but I think these numbers show the difference:

Carl: 26 total tiles, 12 areas completed(one five region), 1 tile in an unfinished area.

Kelsey: 27 tiles, 9 areas completed(one six region), 5 tiles in unfinished region.

My wife chained buildings well as she usually does(she used up all her building spaces) but she made some bad choices as she ended up wasting 5 tiles that didn't score her completion bonuses.

For myself, I only managed to chain once or twice but I had a good economy going as I built 3 mines as well as had the knowledge tile that gives you two silverlings when shipping goods. So while I chained less, I was competitive in tiles bought. Also, I ended the game with 9 coins so I could've even bought more(however at that point it was no longer worth it). Also, I only had one wasted tile when it comes to completion bonuses.

My focus this game was on shipping, mines, and knowledge tiles. I actually only played 6 buildings total in this game. I am noticing that I have been leaning fairly strongly to a shipping strategy these last couple plays, especially in a 2p game where animals are so unpredictable. I think the advantages are too strong to ignore. Here is the advantage to a shipping over animal strategy(in a 2p game):


1) dependant on what comes up and in what order.
2) gives you nothing to help during game play; only gives out points.
3) If done right can net you a ton of points(50+).
4) only takes 12 total actions to get you those points.
5) There are only 2 knowledge tiles that can fall in line with this strategy and one is only worthwhile if you get it early and the other will likely only net you 8 points.


1) no dependance on what order things come out.
2) gives you turn order advantage alongside goods.
3) If done right can net you decent points (26ish).
4) takes more than 12 total actions to accomplish this.
5) all the actions over the 12 for taking and placing the ship tiles(shipping goods) net you income to help during game play.
6) There are only 2 knowledge tiles that score you points through shipping but they are not time dependant and one can be worth arounf 18, and the other around 12ish(if played well).
7) On top of these two point knowledge tiles there are many other knowledge tiles(extra silverling, extra worker, grab tiles from two adjacent depots) that can also flow into the shipping strategy

But this is the main one:

8) Because you have turn order advantage, you can more than likely get these beneficial knowledge tiles to increase your score. On the flip side you can deny someone focussing on an animal strategy decently easily. So when that 4 animal tile comes up you can give yourself those 4 points and limit the big pay out for your pastured focussed opponent. Also, you will have turn order advantage to snipe one of the animal knowledge tiles(the one that gives you points for different types of animals) that fits nicely with a shipping strategy where your focus is not on animals.

Shipping just gives you a whole lot more control on the game. It gives you the first crack at the best tiles, it puts you in a situation to mess with your opponents plans, you can find more synergies with more of the knowledge tiles, and you can net yourself more income along the way.

So I guess my main takeaway from this game is that the superiority of the shipping strategy has been made more clear to me. I am interested to see if my opinion of shipping will be the same with higher player counts. I am also interested to see if a shipping AND pastures strategy is a possibility. I am also curious how dynamics shift if multiple players focus on shipping(pastures with their crazy point multiplication seem to entice newer players).

One more update to go and then I will attempt a review!

Happy Gaming!

Sixth Update

To be continued....
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